commercial drywall finishing

Commercial Drywall Finishing: 6 Different Levels and How Much it Costs

Commercial Drywall Finishing: 6 Different Levels and How Much it Costs

Hanging drywall is one of the simpler tasks that takes place over the construction process, and many homeowners or property owners may not be as discerning about your work since minor flaws will be obscured when the final wall cover is completed. However, the exception to the rule is finishing gypsum board. When you commit to putting on the finish, it needs to be done perfectly. However, not all drywall is created equal. Depending on the flat paint or coat of joint compound you decide to use, you may need more finish on the drywall. To make it easier for all parties to understand, all drywall contractors offer six different levels of finish for a given project. From a smooth finish to wall covering and wall texture, finishing drywall can be a little more complicated than you think! From levels 0-5, here’s a look at the commercial drywall finishing and the 6 types of drywall finish levels and the expenses incurred for each.

Photo by welcomia

Where Do Commercial Drywall Finishing Level Standards Come From?

The standards for each different level of commercial drywall finishing have been created by top trade associations to ensure  uniform service. However, these do change over time. For example, recent changes have been applied to create an industry definition for skim coats and drywall primer to make sure they are consistent with other changes to finishing products.

The purpose of having a set of universal standards is twofold. From the consumer perspective, they can specify exactly what amount of finish they want in order to be more satisfied with the end result. From the contractor’s perspective, having 6 different set levels to work with makes it easier for them to price out a job, so they can put out educated bids. But what exactly separates these different levels? 

Level 0

The most basic of all the levels, this is generally only used as a placeholder option, for a temporary construction project or if plans for final decoration haven’t been done yet. There isn’t any actual finish or joint tape applied yet. You can expect to pay around $1.00-$1.50 per square foot for level 0 drywall.

Level 1

While a level 1 finish is a finished product, there’s a minimal amount of work done, and for the most part, lightly textured or tool-marked walls are acceptable. This is generally recommended for areas either away from view or that are not open to public traffic, like the service area for a commercial building. Any tape applied to drywall joints does not need to be covered in tape, and no additional joint compound is applied. You can expect to pay around $1.25-$1.75 per square foot for level 1 drywall.

drywall room
Photo by David Papazian

Level 2

Similar to level 1, you most commonly see this drywall in areas where surface appearance isn’t a priority, like a parking garage or warehouse. For this level, all joints and interior angles have joint tape applied, then wiped off with a joint knife. This should leave a thin coat of the compound over those areas. This is the main difference, as ridges and tool marks are still considered acceptable for level 2 finish.

You can expect to pay around $1.50-$2.00 per square foot for level 2 drywall.

Level 3

This is the stage we start to see with areas that are going to be in public view. If you plan on doing medium-heavy decorating as well as spray-applying textured drywall, you may need to look into level 3. Like level 2, a thin layer of joint compound residue will be left covering the joints or interior angles. However, another coat then be applied afterward. Any fastener heads and additional accessories will also have two separate coats of compound applied. Any compound should be smooth, with no ridges or tool marks.

Before you decorate, many experts recommend covering the surface with a drywall primer before you apply the actual finish. However, if the final decoration is a smooth painted surface, light texture or light wall coverings, you want to go for another level. You can expect to pay around $1.75-$2.25 per square foot for level 3 drywall.

Level 4

This level is best suited for any area with flat paint, light textures, or lighter wall coverings. You have all the steps done in level 3, but another separate coat of joint compound is applied to any interior angles. In addition, fastener heads and accessories will see three separate coats of the compound in total. It’s also recommended that you put a drywall primer on before the final finishes. If you opt for a level 4 finish, just make sure you are mindful of heavy lighting nearby, as well as enamel paints. They generally aren’t recommended with this finish. You can expect to pay around $2.00-$2.50 per square foot for level 4 drywall.

Level 5

Level 5 is the most involved and the most expensive level and it is only recommended for certain scenarios. These generally include:

Severe lighting conditions

Areas that will see gloss paints

Areas that will see enamel paints

Areas that will see non-textured flat paints

drywall finishing
Photo by 2j architecture

All the steps in Level 4 apply here, and there is one extra procedure, the addition of a small skim coat of joint compound. This formulation is specifically designed for level 5 and is designed to conceal little imperfections in the joints and create a flat and uniform surface. You can expect to pay around $2.25-$3.00 per square foot for level 5 finish drywall.

Because the cost of drywall installation can vary so drastically due to many factors, drywall contractors should take the time to look into project management software like eSUB. On your end, this helps you figure out the amount of time and manpower you need to put into commercial drywall finishing. This helps make sure that your labor costs are consistent and fairly priced for your clients. In addition, this software makes it easier for your team to communicate and share data. Are you discovering issues with a certain drywall? Make sure the front office is aware of it, to avoid costly mistakes down the road.

How eSUB Can Help

eSUB is a cloud-based project management platform built especially for subcontractors. It seamlessly integrates with leading construction software systems so you can easily switch from your current RFI process to a cloud-based system to upgrade RFI process.

eSUB organizes all of your project information in one place, allows for smooth collaboration, and streamlines communication through its intuitive interface. It also works on your mobile, so you can track projects on the go—no matter where or when—and stay up-to-date.